Sailing the East Coast of Australia Part 4

Green Island to Lizard Island

Green Island

Green Island is located off the cost of Cairns just north of Fitzroy Island, the island has a luxury resort and has day visitors. The island being part of the Great Barrier Reef has much coral for diving on or snorkelling.

Sailing there care should be taken when entering the anchorage for coral bommies and reef areas.

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(Chart of Green Island, enter anchorage from the north)

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(Cape Grafton from near Green Island)

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(Anchored at Green Island, Cape Grafton in the distance)

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(Green Island Jetty and boat that brings guests and visitors from Cairns)

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(Low tide)

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(Colourful fish)

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(A Ray swims by)

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(There are many activities for guests)

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(Boats to take you diving, fishing or glass bottom boat to look at coral and sea life)

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(Or just laze around the beach)

Michaelmas Reef and Vlasoff Cay

Michaelmas Reef is very popular tourist attraction for it’s bird sanctuary having literally thousands of birds of different varieties.

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(Chart of the Michaelmas Reef and surrounding reefs and Cays)

There are a number of places that you can anchor around these reefs with care if you wish to dive or snorkel, but be mindful of the weather.

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(Anchored off Michaelmas Reef)

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(The island has this rope line, no person is allowed to go beyond that line)

The notice board state the rules of the island, you are only allowed on the beach between the hours of 0930 and 1530 hours. The tour boats arrive around 0930 hours and they leave at 1430 hours which gives you an hour a day when the island is quiet with exception to bird noise and there is a lot of that.

When the tour boats left we picked up a public mooring and then went ashore and we and the birds were the only ones there vacating by the gazetted time.

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(A little chick with young adult Black Noddy birds)

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(One bird letting the others know it’s his perch)

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We did make one mistake and that was it was a nice quiet anchorage after everyone had left so we decided to stay the night, wrong thing to do. It was great until around 2230 hours when the cooler air started to drop in and with it brought the smell of the sanctuary, damp bird smells, not good. We had to stay as there are coral bommies around and too dangerous to sail at night.

The busy day

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(There are a number of large tour boats come here for the day)

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(Diving, swimming sun baking)

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(Bird watching)

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(Young lady patrolling keeping watch on the divers)

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(Michaelmas Reef)

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(Although the beach looks long  only part of it is allowed to be used)

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(Our 2.9 metre dinghy next to a large shell)

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(This old yacht is a very famous yacht from Denmark. Owner the first Dane to make a living out of sailing, writing books, making TV shows. The crew here looking for bommies so they do not hit them)

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(Bommie watch)

At first light the following morning we sailed for Vlasoff Cay a short distance south.

Vlasoff Cay

Vlasoff Cay is a small sandy island with a lot of reef surrounding it so care needs to be taken when entering. On the northwest side there is one public mooring which we picked up. (Refer to above chart)

As we arrived a helicopter landed on the island, the pilot got out set up a small table and chairs whilst a couple stepped out and looked around, the pilot then served breakfast to the couple after they sat at the table. They had their breakfast as the sun came up, after breakfast all was loaded up and they flew back to Cairns.

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(Vlasoff Cay helicopter with people having breakfast)

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(That’s my Nancy)

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(Vlasoff Cay in the distance)

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(On Vlasoff Cay)

Vlasoff Cay love story:

After we landed on Vlasoff Cay the couple in this boat above arrived and we helped them unload their gear before he set the boat at anchor just off the beach.

The two had been school sweethearts but had gone separate ways and married other partners , not long ago they had met up again after both of them had been through a marriage break-up. He had invited her to Cairns and he had brought her out here for a romantic lunch. We helped them set up and said we will leave them in peace and head back to our boat. With that they asked if we would come back near sunset and have sunset drinks with them. So around sunset we armed ourselves with cheese and biscuits and wine and headed ashore and had sundowners with them.

Low Isles and Pickersgill Reef

Low Isles

These Isles are a good stop when heading north or south unless you get the northerlies, I have anchored there when the late afternoon northeast sea breeze kicked in and it can get a little wild. We sailed as we were going south but a couple of very small yachts could not pull their anchor up (manual hand) as the bow of the yacht was bouncing under water and they were very seasick.

These Isles are just out of Port Douglas which has a marina and a few places to anchor. We have never sailed there due to our size for anchoring and we do not go into many marinas unless we had to. We have been there by road, early days in the 70’s it was just a little fishing port, then Mr Skase  arrived building resort and developing land and it took off.

Low Isles have day tourist that come out on tour boats and can get busy ashore, the isles have coral and sea life that make it good for snorkelling.

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(Low Isles anchorage)

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(Chart of Low Isles or Islets)

Chart shows anchorage red dots, it is possible to anchor on the west/southwest area during northerlies that offers some protection. I have never anchored there because the only time the northerlies kicked in when we were there we were heading south so we up anchor and take advantage of the north wind. In all my notes I only comment on what we have done and where we have been so some places get missed because of that.

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(Alana Rose sailing north)

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(Wave buoy these are used to give wave heights on forecasts)

27 09 2012 near Low Isle

(Nearing Lowe Isles we caught a spotted mackerel by trolling a line)

(Low Isle, the main island with lighthouse)

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(Day tourists on the island and snorkelling using pool noodles to help them float)

The tourist leave between 1430 and 1500 hours then the yachties take to the beach and have sundowners (drinks) together.

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(Out the back a Bat Fish and a Reef Shark)

No the reef shark is not going to harm the bat fish they get along fine, they are a timid shark but will bite if threatened. They eat small fish,crabs and squid.

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(Bat Fish coming for a feed)

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(Bat Fish)

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(Nancy ashore after all the tourists have left)

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(Sun going down at Low Isles)

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(Calm seas at Low Isles)

Pickersgill Reef

Pickersgill Reef is located north of Low Isles not a great anchorage but we did use it when we sailed south from Lizard Island and we followed the outer reefs, looking for an anchorage late in the afternoon we anchored there.

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(Chart of Pickersgill Reef anchorage at red dots)

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(The light at Pickersgill Reef)

Pickersgill Reef is all below the water as you can see above it is near the shipping channel as shown on the chart, there is a clear sand patch for anchoring  SW of the light and can be seen in calm waters easily.

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(The reef below)

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(Set for the night)

The light failed early in the night so we reported it to the Coast Guard, always report damaged or faults of navigation markers to the Coast Guard so they get attended to, it could save lives.

Cooktown

Cooktown the place where Captain James Cook beached the Endeavour for repairs after hitting a reef. Naturally there is a lot of history regarding Cook and the Endeavour and the Museum is well worth the visit. Cooktown is in Far North Queensland 328 kilometres north of Cairns and by road can be a challenge.

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(Sign in a shop window, the top being Cape York)

I think sailing in the right weather conditions would be a lot more comfortable than driving.

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(Cooktown from the harbour)

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(Chart of Cooktown, red dots anchorage areas we have used)

The anchorages are quite shallow most of the locals naturally have the best spots. It is possible to anchor in the channel on the southern side of the long sand bar if there is a spot. The two yellow markers is the turning circle for cargo ships, so if only staying overnight check if there is a ship due and if not anchor in the turning circle. It is possible to anchor on the outside edge of the turning circle. Be aware that if you anchor further into Endeavour River you may suffer the wind bullets from Mt Cook.

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(Cooktown Harbour yachts mooring inside the sand bar)

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(Cooktown Harbour near low tide)

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(The Viking ship crewed by Russian sailors on their way to Sydney from Europe)

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(Cooktown Museum)

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(Anchor from the Endeavour)

The Endeavour had to lighten load when it hit the reef and items like anchor and cannons were thrown overboard, these have been recovered and displayed here.

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(Sign in a restaurant window)

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(Sunset at Cooktown Harbour)

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(Nancy at the anchor as we prepare to head out to sail to Lizard Island)

This spot is a good anchorage, good protection and not too shallow.

Lizard Island

Lizard Island is located approximately 50 nautical miles north/northeast of Cooktown it has a luxury resort and also has a research centre. Lizard and the surrounding islands are as good as it gets it matches any exotic island around the world. Like a lot of islands in the north it has had it’s share of cyclone damage but gets repaired promptly.

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(Chart of Lizard Island, red dots anchorage areas)

The anchorage area is good for most wind directions but does not cater for westerlies some sailors have anchored in the area through the inlet by Seabird Islet but we have never done this. We used to anchor a little further out than some near the two northern red dots, this gave us internet coverage from Cape Flattery so we could have phone and internet and keep an eye on the weather maps. Many others used to walk up the hill on the beach to get coverage.

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(Arriving at Lizard Island passing the passage between Palfrey Island on the right and Lizard Island on the left)

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(Lizard Island anchorage)

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(Watsons Bay, Lizard Island)

Watsons Bay the anchorage area, our catamaran is the one on the right and that is where we still had phone coverage, a little further to travel to the beach but great views and quiet.

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(Anchor Bay, this bay is in front of the resort taken from Chinamans Hill)

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(Watsons Bay)

About the island

Lizard Island was a sacred place for the Dingaal Aboriginal people and the island was known to them as Dyiigurra. It was used to initiate young males and for the harvesting of shellfish, turtles, dugongs and fish. The name Lizard Island was given to it by Captain Cook when he passed it on the 12 August 1770, he said that the only animals they saw on the island were lizards and there were plenty of them. Cook climbed the peak here to chart a course out to sea through the many reefs and this peak is now known as ‘Cook’s Look’.

By the 1860’s sea cucumber fishermen that the waters had substantial quantities of this creature that was a delicacy in Asia. In 1879, Captain Robert Watson and his wife Mary and baby son plus two Chinese servants modified an abandoned cottage to live in. Robert Watson was also a cucumber fisherman and was often away from the island during his absence Aborigines from the mainland killed one of the servants. Mary who was known for her courage and endurance fled with her child and the other servant  by using an iron pot (large rectangle tub) used to boil the sea cucumber in hope of reaching the mainland. The vessel floated away from the island and it drifted to Howick No 5 Island where nine days later they all perished from thirst. Their bodies were found 3 months later along with the diary that Mary kept. In relation to the attack and expedition was mounted against the Aborigines but it is almost certain that they were the wrong Aborigines.

In 1939 all the islands in the group were declared as a National Park. Today it is still a national park but it also has a luxury Resort that is very exclusive and the Australian Museum’s Research Centre.

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(Watsons Cottage)

Cooks Look

Cooks Look is at the top of the peak and is where Captain James Cook went to look out to find a way through the maze of reefs. He did not want to hit another reef after repairs back at Cooktown. The best time to see what Cook saw is mid afternoon when the sun is in the right place to light up the reefs through the water. The climb in places is like climbing Uluru as you have to climb rock faces.

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(The view of Watsons Bay and Anchor Bay from Cooks Look)

As you can see by the shadows on the rocks we went up the peak in the morning, to look at the reefs in the north the sun needs to be more to the west.

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(View from the Peak, Cooks Look)

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(Nancy signing the book at Cooks Look)

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(Near the end of a day)

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(Lizard Island sunset)

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(Nancy on Chinamans Hill  Watson Bay in background)

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(The Marlin Bar)

The Marlin Bar is only open sometimes and is usually broadcast on the VHF radio when it is opening, the bar is located on the north end of the resort and is used by yachties and staff from the resort, they have pizzas available when they are open.

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(Osprey Island located to the south of Anchor Bay)

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(Palfrey Island to the south of Lizard Island)

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(Research Bay, Palfrey Island in background)

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(Research Centre)

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(Research Centre tour)

The research centre gives free tours and talks on what work they do, if you visit the centre they have a board with the time of the next tour, it is a good walk from the anchorage but there are great views and wildlife along the way.

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(Crown of Thorns)

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(Researcher talks on the Crown of Thorns)

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(Different sea life being studied)

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(We came across this Goanna along the walk)

On the walks you may see some lizards and you will see lots of tracks where they have been.

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(Yellow Spotted Monitor)

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(Pheasant Coucal)

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(Yellow Bellied Sunbird)

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(The Wetlands, The Peak in the background)

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(This is still a source of water on the island with well and pump)

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(Well hand pump used by campers and yachties)

Note is this photo the black shower hanging from the tree, the idea is to fill the blue bucket and pour into the shower. It is used by people that camp in the national park camping area.

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(Kapok Tree, there are many on this island)

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(Kapok inside the seed)

Kapok was used for making mattresses in earlier days.

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(Another day comes to a close)

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(Doing what yachties are good at, having a drink or two at sundown)

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(Sailing around the north end of Lizard Island)

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(As we head out we pick up a passenger that stayed for an hour)

More information on Lizard Island can be found on this link.

http://www.lizardislandinfo.com/

This was the end of our northern run on the east coast sailing then we used to get the north east winds around October/November and sail south, that was until we did the circumnavigation which will have pages going north of here.